Liturgical Colors

I am sitting at my kitchen table, looking out on the beautiful canvas of colors that God has painted in the trees, as these days turn colder and the leaves continue to paint a beautiful fall picture. Fall in Minnesota may be one of the shortest seasons but certainly one of the most beautiful. As I take in the beauty of the fall landscape outside my window, I am reminded of how the Church has given us a beautiful color scheme to highlight the seasons of the liturgical year.

As you enter the Church each weekend to attend Mass, you will notice that the appropriate seasonal color will be reflected in the altar and ambo paraments. The color you see during most of the year is green, but that color scheme will change throughout the seasons of the Church year. The vestments worn by the priest and deacon will also give a clue as to the season of the Church year.

We begin our Church year with the first Sunday of Advent.  For three of the four weeks of Advent, the sanctuary and vestments will be in violet. Advent is a penitential season, so the appropriate color is violet. While Advent is a time of waiting for the coming Savior, it is also a time for us to prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus.

Lent is the other season of the Church year when violet is the color of vestments and altar paraments. Lent is the season of preparation for the Easter Triduum, the holiest days of our Church year. The violet of Lent is reflective of the penitential character of this season. It is a time for prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving.

There are only two times during the year when the rose color is worn. The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. We rejoice as we draw closer to the birth of Jesus on Christmas. In Lent, the Sunday is called Laetare Sunday.  Again, we rejoice as we approach the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

During most of the Church year, we are in Ordinary Time. The color for this season is green. Ordinary time is interspersed among the other seasons of the year, and the green color reminds us that we are not in a season of particular focus, like Advent or Lent, Easter or Christmas, but in the ordinary weeks of the Church year.

Red is reserved for the feasts of the Passion and for Pentecost. Red is also worn on the feast days of martyrs in the Church year.

Finally, white is the color worn during the seasons of Christmas and Easter and on certain feast days.

While we are on the subject of vestments, let me take this opportunity to talk a little more about the vestments worn by the priest and deacon for Mass.

AMICE—The amice is part of the vesture that you may not notice as it is worn around the neck and shoulders. It is a large cotton or linen cloth with strings that tie at the waist.  It is tucked into the clerical color.

ALB—This is the long white or off-white garment that is worn by priest or deacon under the vestment. It is intended to cover the body.

CINCTURE—This is the rope-like vestment that is tied at the waist and hangs down on either side. For the priest, there is a practical reason for this part of the vesture as it allows the priest’s stole to be held in place.

STOLE—This is the long piece of fabric worn around the neck of the priest, and worn over the left shoulder of a deacon. The stole signifies the office of an ordained person.

CHASUBLE—The chasuble is the vestment worn by the priest. This is the outer vestment most visible and corresponds to the seasonal color.

DALMATIC—The deacon’s dalmatic differs from the chasuble in that a dalmatic has sleeves. This is to signify the role of deacon as servant.

As we continue to journey through the Mass, Father Steven and I hope that each of us will grow in our knowledge and appreciation of the beauty and mystery of our liturgy.

Deacon Tim Hennessey


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